The Ace Hotel opens in New Orleans on March 14 and with that comes one of spring’s most anticipated restaurant openings. Josephine Estelle, the Southern-inspired Italian restaurant from Memphis chefs and James Beard Award finalists Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman opens for dinner.
The yawning restaurant space, which occupies the bottom floor of the rennovated 1920s art deco building, is roughly 5,000-square-feet. Amenities include an open dining room with high ceilings, ornate light fixtures, light green booths, a wraparound bar and ample outside seating, which wraps around the building.
Ticer and Hudman run the high-end restaurant Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, the more casual Hog & Hominy, and butcher shop Porcellino’s Craft Butcher, all in Memphis. While the pair are overseeing operations at the New Orleans restaurant, they tapped former Dominica Chef de Cuisine Phillip Mariano to be executive chef.
“It’s been a nice, easy transition with Phillip,” Ticer said. “His flavor profile is spot on with ours.”
Named after Ticer and Hudman’s daughters, the spot will focus on Italian food with an emphasis on the flavors of the American South. House-made pastas ($12-$14) will anchor the menu, and the restaurant and bar will be open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“We really wanted it to be a place where people in the local neighborhood could come a few times a week,” Ticer said.
Sourdough toast is topped with fava beans, mint, farmers goat cheese and sorrel. Focaccia toast features mushrooms, asparagus, leek, fontina cheese and a fried egg.
Small plates include red snapper crudo topped with brown butter hazelnuts, lemond rind purree and celery leaves. Creamy stratciatella serves as the bed for a colorful medley of vegetables tossed with Bibb lettuce and citrus vinaigrette.
Eight to 10 house-made pastas make up the core of the menu, followed by a list of entrees, which are still being finalized, Ticer said. Regional ingredients, including Gulf seafood, will feature strongly in both the pasta and entrees.
Breakfast will skew more American with dishes like house-made granola with yogurt and fruit, fresh pastries, buttermilk biscuits, quiche and a dish of roasted pork belly with a fried egg over grits.
Josephine Estelle will provide menus for room service and the rooftop bar, Alto, where an abbreviated menu with salads and light snacks will be served.
Beverage manager and former Sylvain bartender Lucinda Weed is in charge of the restaurant’s wine list and cocktail program at all three of the hotel’s bars. The restaurant’s wine program will feature a large selection of Old World wines, largely from Italy, Weed said, as well as “food-friendly” cocktails, fortified wines and amari.
There’s a separate cocktail list at the lobby bar sidling the hotel’s music venue, Three Keys. At the rooftop pool lounge, Weed said guests can expect frozen drinks, cocktails on tap and a variety of what she’s coined “patio pounders,” including canned beers, cocktails and wines.
The hotel also features a separate Stumptown Coffee Roasters cafe, which will offer cold brew and coffee drinks.
Next door to the hotel, at 630 Carondelet, a still unnamed seafood and cocktail bar is in the works from restaurant group Summer Ops, which is comprised of New York restaurateurs (and New Orleans natives) brothers Alex and Miles Pincus and partner Adrien Gallo. The project is a joint partnership between Ace Hotel and the restaurant group, and is slated to open in May inside the three-story Creole townhouse, which dates to 1832.
Chef Kerry Heffernan, who is the chef at floating oyster restaurant Grand Banks in New York, will consult on the menu along with a local executive chef who will oversee day-to-day operations. Bartender Lauren Schell, who once managed New York cocktail bar Milk & Honey, will curate the spot's cocktail program.